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Obama names task force focused on college sexual assault

Jan. 22, 2014 at 4:49 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- President Obama set up a task force Wednesday to focus on sexual assault on U.S. college campuses, calling the assaults an "affront" and "totally unacceptable."

"I want to make sure we're doing everything we can to spare another American the trauma of sexual assault," he said before signing the memorandum Wednesday that created the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.

Statistics indicated 1-in-5 women on college campuses has been sexually assaulted during their time in college, Obama said during a meeting of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

"[This] is not just a nightmare for them and their families," Obama said, "it's an affront to everything they've [the victims] worked so hard to achieve. It's totally unacceptable."

Obama gave the task force 90 days to recommend actions colleges and universities can take to prevent rape and sexual assault, and to respond to sex crime allegations. It will also be tasked with proposing ways to raise awareness of schools' records on the matter, and to get the involvement of federal agencies when institutions where sexual assaults occur don't address the issue.

"[We're] going to work with colleges and universities and educational institutions of all kinds across America to help them come up with better ways to prevent and respond to sexual assault on their campuses," Obama said. "And then we'll help them put those ideas into practice, because our schools need to be places where our young people feel secure and confident as they prepare to go as far as their God-given talents can carry them."

The leaders of the task force will be selected by Vice President Joe Biden and the White House Council on Women and Girls, and will have members from several departments and agencies.

Within 90 days of the memorandum, the task force is to submit proposals and recommendations to the president.

The Violence Against Women Act includes more protections for immigrants, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans and American Indians, he said.

He noted that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the Pentagon have started taking steps to reduce sexual violence in the military and support those who have been harmed.

"These crimes have no place in the greatest military on Earth," Obama said.

He also noted he directed federal agencies to do more to help members of their workforce who have been assaulted, and met with several Cabinet members to discuss next steps.

Sexual violence is more than a crime against an individual, Obama said.

"It threatens our families, it threatens our communities; ultimately, it threatens the entire country," he said. "It tears apart the fabric of our communities. And that's why we're here today -- because we have the power to do something about it as a government, as a nation. We have the capacity to stop sexual assault, support those who have survived it, and bring perpetrators to justice."

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